I grew up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, and there are a couple of farmers’ markets there that are legend in my mind. We’d go several times a summer and it was always so cool — looking at all the produce, getting fresh meat and to-die-for cheeses, scamming the odd baked treat out of my mother. Going to market was a lot of fun for me and ever since we’ve had kids of our own, I’ve been looking for a market to call home.
This summer we gave the Carp Farmers’ Market a spin, and it was pretty good. There’s no question the food was plentiful and varied and amazing. We bought some of these multi-coloured carrots, which I think are kind of a scam, but still got the kids excited about vegetables, so can’t argue with that.
It’s not a huge place but there are dozens of stalls selling all kinds of goods. Even though there’s not a lot of walking, it’s very stroller friendly, so feel free to bring one along – to hold your kid or your purchases. It’s free to get in and parking is free, but you’ll need lots of money on hand as this is a cash-only kind of place, and also, it’s not the Superstore. Things are on the pricey side – bunches of carrots were going for around $4, the last strawberries of the season for $5, giant zucchini were around $2. Much more than you’d pay at the supermarket, but I can promise you that the food is a) fresh, b) local, and c) delicious.
Also, there are lots of really different fruits and vegetables here, and that makes it fun and interesting. Almost everything was organic, as well.
I don’t know how to shop at a farmers’ market. I’m not usually there to get groceries, I’m there to explore and pick up anything that looks really tasty or unique. So as a result, we filled a whole bag with veggies and it did cost a pretty penny. But oh, SO GOOD.
We happened to be there the weekend of the Garlic Festival, which meant there were at least five times as many people as usual, and SCADS of garlic.
There’s lots of other things to buy there, too, like chocolates, cakes, fresh baked bread, flowers, elk or buffalo meat, pies (I bought a sausage roll, I LOVE sausage rolls), fudge, and crafts.
I bought my girls a fun cookie on a stick and YUM.
You can also buy ready-to-eat food there, like pulled pork on a bun, freshly cut french fries, and gelato.
So, was it fun? I loved it, but the market got mixed reviews from the kids. My five-year-old daughter, Gal Smiley, is a bit of a foodie and was really excited to see all the different foods. It’s pretty hard not to feel like the trip was worth it when one of your kids is standing there saying, “Mommy, can we PLEASE get the beets? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE?” So, there’s that.
My three-year-old really loved the band that was playing there and wanted to stay and dance all day; she also liked looking at all the food and she sure did love her cookie on a stick. She likes crowds and shopping in general so she was happy and REALLY didn’t want to go home. So there’s that.
My seven-year-old son was uber-cranky and begged to go home the entire time. He sulked and frowned and was a general killjoy. It didn’t help that due to his food allergies, he couldn’t eat any of the ready-made food there, and couldn’t have a cookie on a stick. He did ask for some carrots and a cabbage, though. So, there’s that.
Overall, I think the market is good for the kids – it’s good for them to see different foods, to talk about buying local, and to learn about what it means to be a farmer. It’s not exactly a Big Fun kind of place, but it’s interesting in a field-trip kind of way. It’s certainly way better than a trip to the Superstore.
And for lunch on market day, we had sweet little baby grapes that taste like candy, purple carrots, unbelievably fresh strawberries, and rosemary bread with flavoured oil for dipping. So, there’s THAT.
So I think I’ll give the Carp Farmers’ Market a Summer of Awesome Should Do – and know that I’ll personally be going back for more. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and you can get directions from their website.
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos aged 7, 5, and 3, and blogs over at Turtlehead.